Wine: Evil and We Like It!

There is  great deal of discussion lately of the alcohol levels in wines, with many suggesting the higher alcohols we are seeing just aren’t attractive. But there is one thing about the alcohol in wine that doesn’t often get mentioned:

We like alcohol. It makes us feel good.

I was reminded of the obvious as I read a story by Michael Chatfield in the Hollister Freelance. In the story he poses a good question: If it doesn’t have alcohol, is it wine?

The answer is no. If it doesn’t have alcohol it is just a beverage.
The focus of the story my Chatfield was non-alcoholic wines such as "Fre" by Sutter Home and "Ariel" by J. Lohr Winery. He tasted both and concluded that if he had to refrain from alcohol he’d rather just  drink Welches.

I agree. Alcohol is at the very center of the allure of wine. Were there no "Buzz" that came after that third glass of Cabernet or Chardonnay I seriously doubt we would still drink it and learn about it with the gusto that many of us do. There is the slightest bit of "evil" in alcohol that draws us to it, and this diabolical nature that is part of wine makes the beverage just slightly unsafe, somewhat in need of careful handling.

I’m not Saying that wine is evil. Just that the element of wine that is evil is a large part of what attracts us to it.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


6 Responses

  1. Steve-o - April 28, 2005

    While I think there is some truth to what you say, I’ll make two points, one obvious and technical, the other slightly rueful — (1) wine without alcohol simply isn’t good! Not because of the buzz but because the alcohol actually contributes to the body/mouthfeel of the wine, the finish, the aromas. A de-alcoholed wine is lousy. Bear in mind I mean just that – not grape juice that was never fermented. That’s pedestrian and boring…but attempts to remove alcohol from wine (ala so-called non-alcoholic beer) have resulted in something not pedestrian and boring, but actually unpleasant. In other words, the question isn’t wine or grape juice?/. (2) I like the buzz, there can be no doubt. But almost just as often, I would like to open more wine but do not, because the first bottle we opened has taken effect . Once you reach a certain point of consumption, you just drink and stop really tasting… the palatte gets dulled. On some level, I wish wine had less alcohol in it because I want to be able to drink more of it!!!
    As such, I find that generally wine’s good where it is. The pros and the cons weigh out nicely. I’m not really looking for a wine that has so much alcohol in it that I’m plowed after half a bottle – first off, I get to enjoy the taste less, and second of all, too much alcohol hurts the flavor, too (who hasn’t had an unpleasantly “hot” wine?).

  2. tom - April 28, 2005

    The writer of the story at the Hollister paper came to the same conclusion as you, Steve. “It’s just not wine”…for all the reasons you state. And yes, clearly alchohol ads substantially more than just a buzz. It’s getting harder and harder though isn’t it. With alcohol levels on Sauvignon Blanc up over 14% and Cabs and Zins nearing 15% you just can’t drink as much.

  3. Barbara - April 28, 2005

    There was article in today’s NZ Herald on research being done by the AWRI to produce a lower alcohol wine and actually improving the flavours. Read about it here:
    Couldn’t find anything on their website about it though:

  4. James - April 29, 2005

    I take issue with the word “evil”. I find a great deal of good in the alcoholic properties of actual wine. With the power to relax, the help with “decompressing” the day’s stress, to stimulate conversations, to aid with sleep, digestion, and the obvious gustatory pleasures, the only evil is overconsumption – but that doesn’t make alcohol evil in and of itself. I imagine for some who are addicted it is truly evil – but then what addiction isn’t? And if wine is addictive because of the alcohol – why then the centuries of cultural acceptance. I don’t know of any “tradition” built around heroin, for example.

  5. huge - April 29, 2005

    For some reason I am reminded of a column written by Marilyn Vos Savant (you know, the crappy one in the “Parade” insert in your Sunday paper that you always throw away?). Oddly enough, I found a direct quote of it here in another blog.
    I thought her comment was rather odd and narrow-minded

  6. Ryan Scott - May 3, 2005

    Wine must have alcohol. I bet that nonalcoholic fre stuff is just nasty, and hardly as helpful as a full real wine. Wine does have wonderful health effects and benefits, but it must be drunk (no I don’t mean get drunk) regularly and in moderation (1 or 2 or at most 3 glasses per day).

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